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What Is Autism - symptoms,diagnosis and treatment

Updated on March 30, 2012

What Is Autism

Autism is a neurological condition that effects individuals in a number of ways, primarily their ability to communicate on a social level. The diagnosis of Autism is done on a spectrum and often Autism is referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorder ( ASD ) This spectrum however is simply huge and where your child falls within the spectrum is something only a trained professional can decide.

If a child is afflicted to a very high degree they will be called low functioning Autistic, if they are a lot less afflicted they will be classed as having high functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. There is some debate amongst families of children with low functioning Autism as to whether Aspergers and Low Functioning Autism should even be categorised together and it is often a cause for heated debate. Children are now being diagnosed with autism earlier than ever before now as early intervention is seen as being critical as to how much improvement can be made in the child's formative years.

Symptoms

Although the spectrum for autistic behaviour is vast some of the traits those affected by Autism display can be found in most areas of the spectrum below is a list of common traits found in an Autistic child although it is important to remember just because your child shows one or two of these symptoms it does not necessarily mean they are Autistic.

  • Lack of eye contact - eye contact is crucial for communication, children with autism tend not to look people in the eye often if at all in some circumstances.
  • Lack of Speech - some children with Autism never learn to speak, some speak as they get older and some learn to speak and then regress, again this is another communication area they are lacking in.
  • Imaginative play - Children with Autism prefer games that are classed as 'cause and effect' , these games include spinning of objects, or blooding of blocks , they also commonly enjoy lining toys up in a certain order. A child with Autism would have little or no interest in playing 'dollies' or having a 'teddy bears picnic'.
  • Flapping - Children with Autism flap their arms up and down in a repetitive motion when they are excited , bored, frustrated or upset. They will also spin in circle and smack themselves in a repetitive motion.
  • Routine - Id a child with Autism is taken out of their routine it can lead to what is commonly known as a 'Meltdown' meltdowns involve the flapping and crying and screaming and the child will become inconsolable for a length of time. To have a set time to get up to eat to go to sleep a set way a child's clothes are put on all become part of what makes an Autistic child feel 'safe'. In extreme cases a child can become ill if their routine is disrupted too much , instances of moving house etc can result in upset tummies.

These are just a few of the most common symptoms of Autism, your child may have some or none, and your child may display some traits that go against the diagnosis or Autism for example a lot of children with Autism do not like to be held or touched but your child may enjoy cuddles. Girls with Autism present with a fairly different set of behaviours than boys with Autism and I will write about this in more detail in another hub shortly.

Diagnosis

As mentioned earlier there is a tendency now to try and get children diagnoses as early as possible in order to get the early intervention professionals believe is essential. If you are in a situation where you still have regular visits from your health visitor you may find that they pick up on your child's behaviour and will refer them to a specialist for diagnosis early on.

If however your child's Autism does not begin to display itself during the very early years getting a diagnosis becomes a little more difficult. You will need to speak to your family GP and explain what is happening and why you feel they need to be seeing a specialist , your GP may agree with you or they may feel its a case of waiting to see how things go. If you are sure there is something not right then be persistent to the point of changing doctors if you feel you have to. Now early intervention is something that is stressed a lot in the early days of diagnosis but you may find as many others do that once you are diagnosed depending on where you live it can be a bit of a lottery as to what help you can get.

There are organisations out there though and there are grants available for families struggling to cope with the financial upkeep that goes along with raising a child with a disability, Again this will be something I go into in more details in a separate Hub.

The emotional aspects are going to be difficult at first but you will cope you just need to give yourself time to grieve for what you expected that is now lost, but not all is lost , far from it your Autistic child is going to bring you a lot of joy and happiness just in different ways , and like the vast majority of parents of Autistic children you will grow to love the differenced this unique and wonderful child shows you as you enter their very personal world.



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